The Coot is commonly seen in ponds all over Japan; however, in winter few remain in northern Japan, choosing instead to migrate to western parts of the country. They often swim on the surface of the water like ducks, but unlike ducks who have a round bill and webbed feet, Coots have a pointed bill and no webbed feet. They make high-pitched calls of “kwon-kwon” or “kyukkyuu.”
Play birds singing
Birds of the family Rallidae, including the Coot and the Common Gallinule, are classified in the Gruiformes order, which also contains cranes, so they are said to be relatives of cranes, but since they do not belong to Gruiformes Gruidae, we should probably call them distant relatives. Since the Common Gallinule walks more often than the Coot and sounds its call “kururuu” in a loud voice, it may be easier to imagine the Common Gallinule as a relative of cranes.
We can divide black birds into two groups: one comprises shiny black birds like the Crow, which sometimes looks green or dark purple depending on the light, and the other dull black birds such as the Hooded Crane, the Gray Bunting and the Coot. Shiny black plumage should be helpful to control heat absorption by reflecting the sun’s rays but dull black plumage must absorb sunlight in summer and be very hot, right? It seems that most black birds with dull plumage live in northern areas or mountainous regions, but the Coot lives in lowland areas and remains there even during summer. When I went out on a terribly hot day of around 35 degrees Celsius (95 degree Fahrenheit) to see how the Coot fares in the heat, sure enough I found one taking refuge in the shade.
While we often hear these days about declining bird populations, there are some birds that for some reason have been increasing in number. The population of some wild birds cannot easily be confirmed, and they also move frequently. Their populations increase during the breeding season and decrease during the winter so it is difficult to know their exact numbers. We can only estimate population increases or decreases for each type of bird based on examination of the nationwide, long-term data. Coot numbers have been rising throughout Japan, and for certain many areas have seen population increases particularly in fall and winter.
The reason why the Coot population has been increasing is uncertain. The birds breed in the northeastern part of China and move south in the fall, with many migrating to Japan for winter, so the answer surely lies in factors beyond just those affecting them in Japan.
A Coot makes its nest near a bush in the lower marsh. Its foot has no webbing between the toes but its flat shape is convenient for swimming.
The forehead of the Coot is white, but the Common Gallinule’s is red. It often walks around in the marsh. Since it rarely ventures into open spaces, it is not seen as often as the Coot.